Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. But for Nassau county residents living with ALS and those who love them, this condition needs no introduction. When patients get a life-changing diagnosis like ALS, they understandably go through many painful emotions as they process the news. However, some patients also experience ALS-induced depression. Unlike difficult feelings, depression is a medical condition, and it typically doesn’t resolve on its own. But patients and their loved ones aren’t alone. Help is available.
Depression in Patients with ALS
Patients with ALS have a higher risk of depression than other people, and according to Medscape, the effects can be serious. Depression can reduce a patient’s quality of life even more than their disease symptoms.
Symptoms of clinical depression include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, or anxiety that doesn’t go away on their own. People with depression often feel irritable and short-tempered, and they can have changes in their appetite or sleep.
Although people often assume that depression in people with ALS is a result of the reality of their disease, it seems that it may be caused by some of the same brain changes that occur in ALS. One study found that patients were more likely to get a diagnosis of depression right before or right after an ALS diagnosis.
Dangers for Caregivers
Patients are at a higher risk for depression, but there’s another group that is even more vulnerable: their caretakers. According to ABC News, a study showed that although patients tend to stay at a stable level of depression, their caregivers do not. Over time, caregivers typically experience more depression and feelings of burnout.
In fact, researchers suspect that patients’ emotional health is bolstered by their loved ones’ support, while the work of caregiving is an increasing source of stress, exhaustion, and emotional toll for the caretakers.
Since both patients and caregivers are at greater risk for depression, it’s vital that help is readily available to both.
Treatment is Available for Nassau County ALS Sufferers and Caregivers
Regardless of who is experiencing depression, most treatment options are the same. Early diagnosis is important, making it possible to get intervention as soon as possible. It’s important for people with ALS to work with a doctor or psychiatrist who is familiar with the disease. Some symptoms of ALS can mask symptoms of depression, such as muscle weakness disguising fatigue.
Many people find relief from medication, but again, it’s important to work with someone who understands the challenges of ALS. Some medications can have side effects that are dangerous for people with ALS, such as slowing down the rate of breathing. There are safe and effective medications available, and a qualified physician can help.
Although medication is an important tool for dealing with depression, it’s been shown to be most effective when used in tandem with counseling. Individual therapy gives people the opportunity to talk through feelings that may be hard to share with loved ones. Many people find support groups helpful as well.
For caregivers, it’s important to have a well-rounded support team to help meet their needs as well as the patient’s needs. Medical professionals can help find tools to make daily life easier, such as adaptive equipment. We have a team of home care professionals who specialize in caring for patients with ALS and are familiar with their needs.
It’s also vital that caregivers get a break now and then. Getting away from the pressures of home care can enable caretakers to rest and process their emotions.
David York Agency Understands ALS-Induced Depression in Nassau County
David York Agency understands the challenges of caregiving and is willing to provide all the support you need.
If you’d like more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.
David York Agency Home Healthcare remains committed to providing personalized care for your loved one. If you have questions about our services, please contact us. We can help you through the difficult times and give you the break you deserve!